Donna Douglas was a famous American actress and singer who became well-known for playing Elly May Clampett in the popular sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. She was also a successful model, beauty queen, author, and inspirational speaker. This article will explore her life story, achievements, and net worth.
Donna Douglas Early Life and Education
Donna Douglas was born Doris Ione Smith on September 26, 1932, in Pride, Louisiana. Emmett Ratcliff Smith Sr.’s only child worked for Standard Oil and Elma Robinson. She grew up in a rural area and loved animals and nature. She attended St. Gerard Catholic High School, where she played softball and basketball, and graduated in 1950.
She married Roland John Bourgeois Jr. in 1951 and had a son named Danny Bourgeois in 1954. However, the marriage did not last long, and they divorced soon after. She later relocated to New York City to pursue a career in the show industry and began as a model for toothpaste commercial illustrations. She also took first place in several beauty pageants in 1957, including Miss Baton Rouge and Miss New Orleans.
Donna Douglas Acting Career
Donna Douglas made her television debut as the “Letters Girl” on The Perry Como Show in 1957 and as the “Billboard Girl” on The Steve Allen Show in 1959. She also appeared in various TV shows, such as The Phil Silvers Show, U.S. Marshal, Tightrope, Ozzie and Harriet: Fool Us Once, Bachelor Father, Adam-12, and Route 66 are among examples. She had a memorable role in The Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder” in 1960, where she played a woman considered ugly by the standards of a dystopian society.
However, her breakthrough role came in 1962 when she was cast as Elly May Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. The show was a huge hit and ran for nine seasons until 1971. Donna Douglas became a household name and a sex symbol for portraying the naive and charming country girl who moved to Beverly Hills with her eccentric family after striking oil. She also sang the show’s theme song with her co-stars Buddy Ebsen and Max Baer Jr..
Donna Douglas also starred in a few movies, such as Career (1959), Li’l Abner (1959), Lover Come Back (1961), and Frankie and Johnny (1966). In the latter, she played the title role of Frankie opposite Elvis Presley as Johnny. She also appeared in TV movies and specials, such as The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (1981) and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! (1989), The Nanny (1999), and Chronicles of Life Trials (2013).
Besides acting, Donna Douglas was also involved in other fields of interest. She was a devout Christian and a gospel singer who recorded several albums, such as Donna Douglas Sings Gospel (1982), Here Come the Critters (1983), Back on the Mountain (1989), and Donna Douglas Sings Gospel II (1991). She also wrote books for children and adults, such as Donna’s Critters & Kids: Children’s Stories with a Bible Touch (1998), Miss Donna’s Mulberry Acres Farm (2011), Southern Favorites with a Taste of Hollywood (2013), and Donna’s Critters & Kids: Coloring Book (2014).
She was also an inspirational speaker who traveled across the country to share her faith and testimony with various audiences. She also supported several charitable causes, including animal welfare, children’s education, and veterans’ welfare. She was also a real estate agent who sold properties in Louisiana and California.
Personal Life and Death
Donna Douglas married Robert M. Leeds, the director of The Beverly Hillbillies, in 1971, but they divorced in 1980. She never remarried after that and remained close to her son Danny Bourgeois, who became a DJ. She also had three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
She died on January 1, 2015, at 82, in Zachary, Louisiana. She had had pancreatic cancer for some time. She was buried at Bluff Creek Community Cemetery in Bluff Creek, Louisiana.
Donna Douglas Net Worth
Donna Douglas had an estimated net worth of $500,000 at her death. She derived most of her fortune through acting,
especially from The Beverly Hillbillies, one of the most-watched and highest-rated shows in TV history. She also made money from singing, writing, speaking, and real estate ventures. She lived a modest and humble life and donated much of her money to various charities and causes.
Donna Douglas was a talented and versatile actress and singer who entertained millions with her charming and funny role as Elly May Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. She was also a devout Christian and a generous person who used her fame and fortune to spread the gospel and help others in need. She was a true Southern belle who left a lasting legacy in the entertainment industry and beyond.